I tossed my tool bag onto the passenger seat and slouched into position behind the wheel. The handle of my father’s hammer stuck out at the top of the bag, I reached to zip up the bag properly when my phone buzzed and beeped. New sweat mixed with old sweat as I scrambled to grab the phone out of my pocket.
“Yes!” I whispered to myself as the purple glow filled my eyes. The face of a handsome brown haired man with green eyes filled my screen. His face said money, his clothes said money, his location said.
“Money baby,” I said with a little high pitched squeal and shoulder roll. I nudged my tool bag onto the ground of my passenger side and flicked my keys into the ignition. My mean little Volkswagen hybrid purred gently to life. In a moment I was cruising, window down, music thumping, air kissing the sides of my face. The sun screamed yellow rays from between clouds. I wound around potholes and crags in the road, dodging stop signs where I could. As I got closer to my assigned passenger, the buildings grew taller, the streets less scraggly. I glanced quickly at two women walking down the street, high heels, business suits. I glanced just as quickly back to my wedding band, and then the paint stained jeans that held together my thighs.
I pulled around the corner, and there he was. A little shorter than I’d imagined, but his perfectly fitted suit and brand name sunglasses projected a larger image. I coasted to a stop before him. He glanced at his watch, glanced up at my car, glanced back to watch his, and nodded. He pulled on the handle and slipped into my backseat. A wave of sweet cologne touched my nostrils. My phone beeped and buzzed in acceptance.
“Yes, indeed,” He said, his voice chipper and smooth, with a hint of blossom honey.
“How’d you like the windows?” I said as we rolled away, heading down the direction from which I came.
“It’s okay, a little wind in the hair never hurt,” he said, his full lips inching towards a smile.
I smiled back through the rear-view mirror. My fingers reached for the music console in the middle of my car. I flipped through some Yiddish rap and a little punk, fingers flicking over albums and genres.
“Oh no, just leave what you had on, I’m a fan.”
“Haha cool, okay. Thanks,” I said, relaxing a bit in my seat as we whipped down another block. We sat as the words to my favorite song bumped us along the way.
“Do you speak Yiddish yourself?” he asked, removing his sunglasses.
“No, not really, I mean I learned a little bit when I was a kid, but not fluent,” I said, catching glances at him whenever appropriate. “You really like this stuff, like you know what he’s saying?”
“Yeah I studied a bit in the Palestinian Provinces when I was younger,” he said proudly. “So you’re a Jew then right?”
The hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention like shock troops poised for battle. My fingers tensed on the steering wheels. “Yeah.”
“Ha I should have known, you don’t look it, but the first name was a give away!” He said with excitement. He leaned forward in his seat. “Sorry I don’t mean any offense, it’s just so exciting you know?”
“What do you mean,” I said, keeping my voice level. I knew what he meant.
“The new Chancellor! One of your people! At the head of the Reich!” his face reddened with joy.
“Yeah, everyone’s talking about it.”
He leaned back in his seat again and folded his hands. “You know, I voted for him myself,” he said beaming. “Not a lot of us did, but I did, I believe he’s what we need right now.”
“You don’t sound too excited friend,” he said, brow cocked.
“No, I am, I’m just…it’s been a long day,” the words clotted my mouth.
“Oh come on man, you must be proud right?! This is such a big deal!” He said, leaning forward again. I caught another wave of his cologne, the sweetness swallowed my breath.
“Hah yeah, totally man,” I said, mustering every muscle in my face to force a smile and laugh. “Why’d you vote for him?”
He nodded, smiling with closed lips. “It’s his energy, his charisma you know? I think he’s going to do a lot for you guys, but for everyone too. We need some change here.”
“Yeah man definitely,” I said. Yet he has no plan to close the camps.
“You have kids?”
He gestured towards the picture of two smiling children stuck securely on the passenger side dashboard. “Yours?”
“Oh, yeah.” I said, my right hand tracing the left side of the image. “Beth and Ishmael.”
“Ah, proper Jew names! I feel like a lot of you try to change it up, hide too much.” He patted me on the back. I resisted the urge to drive into the oncoming traffic. “I knew you were a Jew,” he said again, leaning closer. I could smell the sweetness again, and the alcohol it covered up.
“Do you mind if I ask where you’re headed… sir?” I regretted the “sir” as soon as it flew out of my lips. A traitor to my soul. But I needed to change the subject.
He leaned back again, straightening his cuffs. “A press conference, a new Farben facility. Right in the heart of the Ghetto.” He said proudly. “Good jobs you know?”
“You work for Farben?”
“Yes, Chief Engineer, as of last December,” he raised his right fist in celebration.
“So you helped design what they use on the illegals?”
“Aha yes. I helped design the whole system. Simple, humane. It’s all voluntary, and it helps them you know,” he said, the sun had long disappeared into a flood of grey clouds. “The less children, the better frankly,” he said as we creeped down a lonely road. I put the car in park and looked at the picture on the dashboard for the last time.
“What are you — ” he said as I swung the hammer against his eye. He reeled back in pain, his limbs flailing. I jumped between the seats, on top of him as the sweat quickly met my face. I rained down another blow against his skull. Another, and another, the sick sweet smell of blood and cologne consumed me. I struck again, the crackling and cracking, the pop of another hit. Blood, brain, and bone, swallowed me whole.